By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins have a set home for the second-highest tier of minor-league hockey, as the team has renewed their affiliation with the Atlanta Gladiators of the East Coast Hockey League, according to Bruins general manager Don Sweeney.
“The 2019-20 campaign will mark the fifth season we have partnered with the Atlanta Gladiators who continue to impress by providing our players top quality developmental attention and support to improve their game,” Sweeney said in a press release on Thursday. “The Bruins organization would like to extend our gratitude to Daniel Orlich, Jerry James, Jeff Pyle and the tireless Gladiators associates who fuel this partnership.
“We would also like to thank the Duluth community for its unwavering support of the Gladiators franchise.”
Boston’s ECHL affiliate since 2015, having a set home with the Gladiators may be especially important to Boston’s long-term prospects in net.
With Max Lagace signed to be Boston’s third-string netminder, Atlanta will be the likely landing spot for one of Daniel Vladar or Kyle Keyser in 2019-20, as the two are expected to duel to be Lagace’s partner in Providence. Vladar, the No. 75 overall pick from 2015, has appeared in 59 ECHL games since 2016, compiling a 22-27-3 record with a .904 save percentage. But Vladar did spent the entire 2018-19 season with the P-Bruins, giving him a potential leg-up on Keyser, who is jumping to the pro ranks full-time after a 71-40-2 record and .891 save percentage in four OHL seasons.
The perks of that extend beyond just the crease, of course, as it’s an obviously better route than having to loan your own prospect to another affiliate trying to develop their own players and/or playing under a different system.
The Gladiators went 31-30-11 last season, finishing in fifth place in the South Division, and good for their fifth did-not-qualify in the last six seasons.